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OPINION: Drawing a line between university drinking culture and safety It’s okay to drink, but we need to better promote responsible drinking

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Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

By: Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Drinking culture at university has been a long-discussed topic since many university events, namely Welcome Week, Frost Week and homecoming, promote or even encourage the use of alcohol. This often creates an environment in which students feel pressured to consume alcohol in order to conform to standards set by these events. 

In addition to university-hosted events, there are most social events that are alcohol-centred that occur across the city. Popular attractions such as 12 barz and Bunny Hop promote excessive drinking and are promoted across main social media pages to target students. Moreover, faculty-based events such as Eng Pub, HealthSci Pub or Kin Pub, also occur off-campus with a strong association with the university. Lastly, certain sororities host keggers or house parties as fundraising events. Many students, especially those in their first year, are experiencing life away from home for the first time. The fact that many social events involve alcohol consumption can create an unsafe environment for vulnerable students. Because these students are in a new environment, they may feel pressured into drinking. In addition, many first years are only 17 or 18 when they begin university, which means they are below the legal drinking age. Moreover, younger students may not know their alcohol tolerance level or the safety measures required when consuming alcohol.

In my experience, networking events often incorporate alcohol such as the following: the Justice, Political Philosophy and Law Program event called “Wine and Cheese” and a McMaster Pre-Law Society event called “Beer and Chips Night”. Alcohol consumption is not inherently negative, but it may result in feelings of alienation for students who do not assume alcohol for religious reasons, students who may struggle with substance abuse and students who choose not to drink for other reasons. I believe McMaster should be more diligent about which events it decides to host in order to create a safe environment for all its students. 

It would be beneficial to many students if McMaster promoted more events that are “dry events” in order to accommodate and respect students that do not wish to partake in events involving alcohol, though wish to attend events. By normalizing alcohol culture at university may put students at risk for developing unhealthy drinking habits. In addition, there is limited to no education surrounding alcohol use and symptoms of alcohol poisoning after first year. While signage and information are reliable, it is often not as widespread as needed and it is not promoted to upper-year students.

In 2012, alcohol use and misuse accounted for 3.3 million deaths every year according to the World Health Organization, or six per cent of all deaths worldwide. It is unrealistic to remove alcohol from university and social events, but it is essential to educate and spread awareness about responsible alcohol use and what to do in emergency situations with alcohol. Rather than pushing the agenda that alcohol is harmful, it is more important to educate students about how to keep themselves safe if they decide to partake in alcohol consumption. This will help keep students safe during their transition to university life. Lastly, through the incorporation of dry events, students, sober and not, can come together in a way that permits freedom without substances that may be offensive or displeasure to some.

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